Their Tomorrow: It’s All Up in the Air

2015-04-15-061321-WorldBall480Our eldest grandchild, Abby, is in the 8th grade now. I was in the same grade in 1962. I marvel at how much life on Earth has changed since then–not just human lives but the state of all life on the planet.

Amazing, the degree of change our one species has caused in the geological blink of an eye is comparable in magnitude only to the shifts between eras caused by colliding continents, super-volcanic millennia or massive meteors slamming into Earth.

My generation has created profound ecological distress on multiple fronts–air, soil, forest, ocean–that we leave for these girls, our grandchildren.  Is there much hope for them to have hope in the future when they are my age now, past mid-century?

I have to believe that there is not if we continue with business as usual. There is little reason to hope for a stable, predictable future for them if today’s adults allow the Anthropocene to become the new geological epoch where no interests are served but mankind’s.

Thomas Berry, featured personality at the Saturday night movie at the Country Story in Floyd, proposes that we must hope for, plan for, and think towards  a much larger chunk of geological future than the Anthropocene (which is only a geological “epoch” lasting a few thousand years.)

Berry’s proposed Ecozoic is of a much grander scale–an era in geology-speak, lasting millions or hundreds of millions of years. And it is a prescriptive, not a descriptive, term. It implies a purposeful direction we must go, and that direction is not a choice, really, because failure to reach the Ecozoic will be terminal for countless species that might include a large portion of our own kind.

We begin to move towards the Ecozoic by reordering our relationships; by telling the New Story and seeing the future biologically; by replacing hubris with humility; by caring for people and planet and not just profit; and by acting as if we really understood that none of us are wholes. We are all part of necessary community, one species among many, and all together part of a much greater story than we’ve let ourselves comprehend.

Berry is a theologian, and ultimately, his Great Story (the title of the short movie we will see this weekend) brings the physical creation back into the Christian story. Matter is not evil. It matters to God, from the sub-atomic to the super-novae.  Nature is not God nor does it contain him any more than a building contains the architect who designed it. But the natural world from microcosm to macrocosm displays, in all of its myriad manifestations, the nature of the builder.

Berry’s message is not quickly or simply unpacked and I’m certain I’ve trivialized it here in this short post. It contains theological, ecological and psychological weight. And it helps us move forward towards a future I can hope for when I watch my grand daughters playing in a present that will move to quickly to their uncertain tomorrow.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I hope you are the one making the intro Saturday night, and that this post is what you plan to say. Very good, as always. Keep at it. You are the trickle that wears away the rock.